July 02, 2009

1492 t-shirt is negative?

Freedom, Liberty and Justice:  Basic Native American Rights

by Walks With ThunderHave you ever seen those shirts and posters that say “Fighting Terrorism Since 1492” with a picture of Sitting Bull in his war paint? This is a statement from people who hold negative feelings. It was not that long ago that Indians, along with African Americans, had to use the back door instead of the front, unable to walk as equals in America because our skin was not White, but Red. Our people, the old ones and some middle aged ones, still remember this. They hold hatred for the White people whom they feel took our way of life and our land.

It is time to let that hatred go. We are a conquered people and we should own that. The Japanese are also a conquered people, but they’re doing it with style. Did you know that Japan owns much of the United States? Ever hear of Sony, Honda, and Toyota—those Japanese companies that have invested in real estate here in the United States? Yes, we Native Americans are a conquered people, but let’s use that casino money and reinvest in our people and real estate here in our ancestral lands. Let’s buy our heritage back!

To my people I say: Stop drinking, drugging, and abusing. Let go of the negative feelings about those who conquered our people. That is a past generation’s burden, not ours. It is time to use our Liberty and hold our heads up because we are the Native People of this land.

Comment:  So this t-shirt is negative? Why, because it suggests the reality of Native history? How is it "hatred" to state a fact: that the attacks Indians suffered fit the dictionary definition of "terrorism"?

What's with his "the White people whom they feel took our way of life and our land"? "They feel"?! Is Walks with Thunder saying this statement isn't objectively true? That it's just someone's feeling, not a historical reality?

What is Walks with Thunder suggesting, exactly? That we never mention Native history? That we don't educate people about it? That we literally focus only on the positive? Ridiculous.

Why stop there?

If that's his position, why limit it to history? It's "negative" to talk about the present poverty, unemployment, alcoholism, crime, and suicide on many reservations. Should we pretend these problems don't exist? If we ignore them, will they go away?

One could just as easily say the t-shirt expresses pride. Indians faced terrorism but they fought back with strength and determination. Why do you think the shirt shows armed Apache warriors and not dead bodies at Wounded Knee?

If you ask me, Walks with Thunder's opinion is stupid. One could find a positive and negative side to almost anything. The sky is blue? Better put on sunscreen or you'll get skin cancer. A puppy loves you? Sorry, you'll have to put it to sleep in a decade or two.

Walks with Thunder can pretend the shirt is negative, but that says more about him than it does about the shirt. He's apparently blind to the concept of pride and where it comes from. Many people would say that fighting back, as Geronimo and his people did, is the epitome of self-empowerment.

And linking the t-shirt to "drinking, drugging, and abusing" is even stupider. I'm pretty sure the shirt hasn't caused anyone to turn to substance abuse. The negative reality of Indian life is why people turn to substance abuse, not the shirt's "negative" message.

For more on the subject of negativity, see Not Enough Good Native News?, Bitchin' and Moanin', and Why Does Rob Keep Criticizing?

A point about gaming

Walks with Thunder sounds a little naive about Indian gaming. Every gaming tribe is reinvesting its income in its people, since it's the reason for gaming and it's required by law. Many tribes are buying back land or trying to.

But these days it's difficult to take that land into trust. If a tribe can't do that, the land doesn't become part of its reservation. It remains and investment property with no special tax benefits.

Maybe Walks with Thunder thinks gaming isn't working because many tribes are still poor. If so, that's a common misconception. Actually, a few tribes are already wealthy and many tribes have reached the middle class. The remainder are slowly but steadily lifting themselves out of poverty.

Incidentally, here's some information on Walks With Thunder from the article and his website:Walks With Thunder is a non-traditional shaman who helps people heal themselves and learn to heal others. Contact him at 253.350.5755, www.walkswiththunder.ning.com, or http://shamanism.meetup.com/270/.

WalksWithThunder is Shaman Born. His grandfather was a Shaman for the Caddo tribe, as was his father before him. He has been able to see Grandfather Spirits since the age of two, and could bi-locate (literally in two places at once) at fourteen.
Walks with Thunder sounds a lot like an Indian wannabe and a New Age "plastic shaman" to me. But for all I know, he could be an enrolled Caddo Indian and the Caddo tribe could have healers it calls "shamans."

For more reactions to the t-shirt, see "Fighting Terrorists Since 1492" T-Shirt Offends Conservative.


Rob said...

A comment received via e-mail:

I feel that we have every right to feel hatred still to these white people for having taken everything they could from us. These t-shirts are stating the fact that we are still fighting them! They are still putting us down and keeping us exactly where they want us. Who said nobody's educated, of course all of our past generations are educated. They don't really care about education, or money or greed like white people do! No matter how educated they are, even today. We don't have to buy our lands back that they have stolen. We have treaties that we want honored today. They still owe all of the tribes a lot of things, including lands, water rights, and respect. We will never forget, that's not why most of the people are drinking and drugged up? It's because they need the old ways to be happy. They don't want to be white people. That's never been my goal or any of my family's goal, not ever! I feel like every chance we get to make white people pay we should take advantage of this, and we do! We don't want to be like them, don't you get it, to be greedy and fight over money and land. Real traditional Indians don't ever want to be like that, ever! Never. We are proud of where we come from and we will never forget and change our ways of life.

From a traditional Native American woman in Portland Oregon: Debra Rincon Lopez--Klamath & Blackfeet Tribal member. I have worked for the Govt. and the Army corps of Engineers, IHS, BIA and I am back here to help my Native people in anyway that I can, that's what a traditional Indian does.

P.S. I forgot to say we are not conquered or will we ever be conquered by the white man, they aren't strong enough to conquer us until we are all dead, then I would say we are conquered!

Rob said...

Another comment received via e-mail--on "Walks with Thunder":

He's a flake accused of using the shame on [shaman] bit to get laid.


Gina said...

In the not-too-distant-past, I worked with a Lakota woman who commented on my "1492" T-shirt. She felt it made a negative statement by giving the impression that the Indians were losing the battle because they hadn't stopped the Europeans right at the start and were still experiencing discrimination and violence. But I saw it as a powerful statement of truth: that Indians are NOT vanquished, NOT extinct, but still fighting terrorism. Still quite alive and kicking! The fight will continue until the treaties are honored, the old ways respected, and the history books stop dreaming and tell the truth. (Well, that'd be a good start, anyway.)

So I wear my 1492 T-shirt to places like the gym, where I've had (white) people come up to me and tell me they instantly understood the truth of the shirt's message. They know that terrible wrongs have been done, lies told, and that it continues today. Sometimes they ask me where they can get a shirt of their own. The more people that see the shirt, the better.

8 said...

Very interesting piece.

Brings to mind one of the so called controversial statements of Reverend Jeremiah Wright-

"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Iroquois, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism. We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel; we bombed the black civilian community of Panama, with stealth bombers, and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We've bombed [Moammar] Gadhafi's home and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children's heads against the rocks. We bombed Iraq; we killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back an attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home. We've bombed Hiroshima, we've bombed Nagasaki, we've nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant. Because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism."